The family living in the house on the corner across the street from our church when we were growing up had a number of children about our age. As I recall, several of them showed up at the last minute a time or two to be in the Christmas program. You can always use more shepherds and angels. (Well, not this year!)

Mom or one of the other church basement ladies would quickly rummage through a big cardboard box for an old bathrobe or other rustic tunic, perhaps with a length of rope for a belt. — Not every shepherd could have a tall staff with a hook. Someone else might have to cut a strip of prickly gold garland as a halo for the little sister.

Years later, I recall a day when the taller boy with the dark hair and nice smile came into church while I was practicing the organ. I imagine I heard the front door. I had to go tell him that my friend who was there didn’t want to talk to him.

We talked about him today though, not much but enough. My friend who now lives in California said she was kind of expecting my call. I’d been sort of keeping an eye on social media to anticipate when and how she might find out he’d just died unexpectedly. When I saw condolences on his older brother’s Facebook page from a classmate I’d sat next to in band, I suspected she’d call my friend’s sister yet that night. Additional posts the next morning seemed to confirm that theory.

I didn’t ask my friend if that’s what transpired, but I don’t need to know. She sounded good. That, I did need to know.

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After the Christmas programs a couple of men would hand out little brown bags of treats. The contents mostly consisted of nuts and a piece of fruit, but also some bright colored hard candy and a couple chocolate-covered sweets.

Whether any of the little bags ever made it across the street I don’t remember noticing. I did notice recent comments online about far-flung classmates having good past due conversations with their old friends.

After my conversation, I finally got out the old nativity set Mom once painted and admired their outfits. (The angel pictured here not included as part of the original set.)

When I worked at the church, I met a cousin of the siblings who still lives right around here.

It’s both a big and a small world after all.